Raising Money, Awareness
Asking friends and family for money can be as precarious as learning to ride a bike. But several Johns Hopkins University students gladly peddled for a chance to pedal across America this summer in support of a worthy cause.
Eighteen Hopkins students are spending June and July perched atop 36 skinny bicycle tires, traveling a 4,000-mile route between the Homewood campus in Baltimore and San Francisco. Known as the Hopkins 4K for Cancer, the journey aims to raise both money for cancer research and awareness for the disease's prevention. The journey began on Sunday, June 2, when the students rode from campus to Baltimore's Inner Harbor to dip their bikes' back tires in the water. When they reach San Francisco, the front tires will be dipped in the bay.
The ticket to ride was $2,500, which each of the 24 riders -- six of whom are students at four other universities -- raised by soliciting donations. The money is being used to sustain the students throughout the trip, but will primarily be put toward their goal of giving $50,000 to the American Cancer Society at the end of the road.
Businesses have put the group closer to its goal by paying to have their logos on the riders' jerseys. The Cliff Bar company has donated 200 of its energy bars. Avis Rent A Car System donated the use of two vans to the students for the summer to carry their gear. The Mount Washington Bike Shop in Baltimore donated a bike helmet for each participant. LeMond gave Hopkins 4K a deep discount on a new road bike for each rider, and Lutherville Bike Shop in Baltimore County assembled the bikes free of charge. WOCT-FM 104.3, a Baltimore classic rock station, has asked the riders to call in during its Monday morning shows this summer. Community groups, schools, and churches are pitching in along the route, providing food and lodging for the students as they pedal to San Francisco.
Besides educating people in towns along the way and paying tribute to loved ones lost to cancer, the Hopkins 4K for Cancer is also offering the students a chance to see their country from over their handlebars rather than through an airplane window.
"It's a chance to be a tourist in my own country," said undergraduate Jen Parker, of Newburyport, Conn., one of the group's five trip leaders. "And everybody knows somebody who has been affected by cancer."
That nearly universal cancer connection was what led undergraduate Ryan Hanley of Hickory, N.C., to choose the American Cancer Society as the beneficiary of the cross-country bike trip he had always wanted to take and was finally going to embark upon this summer. He started spreading the word about the trip after arriving on campus last fall.
"Cancer has come really close to me, affecting my family," Hanley said. "There's not another charity that even crossed my mind. I really wanted to do something."
A few weeks before the journey began, most of the riders admitted that the trip was going to be harder than they thought. Undergraduate Travis Snow of New Hartford, Conn., said he had no idea how he was going to get in shape or raise the entry fee. But he sent letters to family and friends and started working out.
"In the past three months, I've raised more than $3,100 and dropped more than 25 pounds," Snow said. "Preparing for the trip taught me an important lesson: Big accomplishments are only a bunch of little steps done with persistence and focus. I know keeping this in mind will help me make it across the country."
"This trip will be an adventure in every sense of the word," said Adam Ruben, a graduate student in biology from Wilmington, Del. "I chose to go on this trip in part because I want to tell my grandchildren that I biked across America, not that I spent another summer doing lab work."
To arrange an interview with the Hopkins 4K for Cancer riders throughout the summer, contact Amy Cowles at 410-516-7160. The students' daily journal entries, photos, and ways to contribute are available online at www.hopkins4k.org.
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